After 281 wins in the Western Hockey League, a MasterCard Memorial Cup title and experience behind NHL and AHL benches, Ryan McGill brought his coaching expertise to Owen Sound at the outset of the 2015-16 season.
McGill was named as Greg Ireland’s replacement on July 28th, giving him just a month to prepare for training camp and get himself familiarized with the Ontario Hockey League.
After guiding the Attack into the OHL Playoffs for a sixth straight season, the 151-game NHL veteran on the blue line is raring to go in 2016-17.
“I know all of the players’ faces and I know their names,” McGill told Bill Walker of the Owen Sound Sun-Times. “I know what they can and cannot do and I have higher expectations of them because I know what they can do. (The players are) not nervous coming in wondering ‘what’s this guy like, what does he want, and how do I prove myself?'”
The Attack’s roster remains largely intact from last season, with newcomers in overage winger Matt Schmalz, Belarussian import Maksim Sushko, 17-year-old Nick Pryce and first round selection Aidan Dudas joining the club up front while defenders Luke Beamish and Cole Cameron are added to the back end.
With a large crop of returnees including emerging sophomores in Nick Suzuki, Markus Phillips, Matthew Struthers and Zachary Roberts, McGill is confident that young talent on the Attack roster is poised to take a step forward.
“We always have to be cognizant of that second-year player being a little too relaxed,” he told Walker. “I don’t think we’ve got that in our guys. I think those second year guys coming back will be focused athletes. They’re good kids.”
Attack general manager Dale DeGray, who like McGill is a former NHL defenceman, says the transition from the WHL to the OHL even affects sleeping habits.
“He actually called me on the bus to Barrie the other day and wondered how he’s supposed to get his three hour pre-game nap in on an hour-and-fourty-five minute trip,” DeGray said with a laugh. “While the two leagues have their similarities, there are also a number of differences, including travel distances, and now that Ryan has had a year to get familiarized, I think he’s excited to get the puck dropped.”
With a knowledge of McGill’s systems and approach, the Attack look to get out of the gate quickly this season, faced with the task of playing six of their first eight contests on the road.
“Instead of waiting around until October or November for them to know what to do, I think we hit the ground running right out of training camp.”
The Attack open their season on the road, spending the first weekend of the season in Sarnia and Flint.
ontariohockeyleague.com will feature one team each day in advance of the 2016-17 season which begins Wednesday September 21.
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